Last Days in the Abacos

Our last week in Hope Town came upon us sooner than expected, as a result of the weather predictions. We knew we needed to begin our return journey sometime between March 6th-11th. Looking ahead at the forecasts, it appeared that we would have a window later this week but not another one until after the 13th  or so.  If we were totally carefree and without “ties”, we could just wait it out for a later time. But, those family ties are pulling at us, especially me.

The previous week we had made a day trip to Marsh Harbour for a Maxwells run and a visit to the immigration office. When we checked through Customs back in December at Green Turtle, we received a 90-day visa. Thinking ahead that we may be here until mid-March, we had to go through the process of an extension. With Anthony and Annette, who came along for the ride, we walked to the recently completed “Bahamas Government Complex”.

The new Bahama Government Complex

The new Bahama Government Complex

It was February 22nd and our 90 days would end on March 2. Much to our dismay, the immigration clerk, after counting three times with her finger on a calendar hanging on the wall, informed us that we were here too early. You can only have the permit extended within 3 days of its expiration and we were 6 days too soon. Really??? Are they going to be that picky? Especially for a country that is pretty relaxed about most things. Fortunately for us, after checking with a supervisor, we were given a 14-day extension. Relief. I’ll admit that I was ready to just forget the whole extension thing and take our chances that we would never be stopped and asked for the paperwork. If we were stopped, would that result in jail time? Boat confiscation? Big $ fine?? Better to be safe than sorry, as the saying goes……….. 

Another preparation task for leaving was fuel and water, especially fuel. We pulled into Lighthouse Marina just inside the Hope Town harbor entrance for water and fuel for our return voyage.

Lighthouse Marina. Al checking the water meter as we filled the water tanks.

Lighthouse Marina.
Al checking the water meter as we filled the water tanks.

Wouldn’t you know that just before we leave the Bahamas our water tanks were finally low enough. Al’s water collection system during those rainy days had worked very well. This was also the first time we took on diesel since we left Stuart, Florida on December 2nd. 100 gallons of diesel ($4.02 per gallon) and 90 gallons of water (36 cents per gallon.) Plus the Bahamas VAT tax of 7.5%

The day we returned from Great Guana Cay, we spontaneously hosted a Leap Year Day flybridge happy hour for our “core water family,” who were all back in the harbor again from various and sundry exploits.

Leap Year Day Happy Hour. What's better than a day in paradise? An extra day in paradise!

Leap Year Day Happy Hour — What’s better than a day in paradise? An extra day in paradise! Anthony & Annette;  Laurie, Peter, and Kayda;  Marcia & Dan; John; Sam

Conchs at sunset - Peter and Al sound their horns.

Conchs at sunset – Peter and Al sound their horns.

The next day, March 1st, we reached the conclusion that we needed to catch the little weather window predicted for later this week. Suddenly, every day and evening was busy, getting ready and saying good bye. Dinner on Cutting Class that night (no photo), then another happy hour on JillyQ.

Happy Hour on JillyQ -- Dan & Marcia, Michele & AL, Jill & Dave, and Anthony & Annette

Happy Hour on JillyQ —
Dan & Marcia, Michele & AL, Jill & Dave, and Anthony & Annette

Another interesting, semi-unexpected event occurred during this last week, although the roots of the problem had begun weeks (months?) earlier. Dinghies and their engines are important when cruising. No, not important, they are CRITICAL. Our older Hondo 4-stroke engine has had cranky moments on this trip. Al has taken it apart on several occasions, the most noteworthy back in December.

Dinghy Surgery

A man performing surgery on his dinghy engine attracts other guys like flies to honey. They love to solve mechanical problems. Sam stops by with advice, Will takes a look at the problem, and Al…… what is he doing with the carburetor in his mouth???

That repair was the best one yet and the engine did well for the next 12 weeks. I became more comfortable with it and thus more independent, which I loved. But then, that old crankiness surfaced again, and there were a few times when I couldn’t get the engine started again. 🙁 That did not make me feel confident. The dinghy engine issues spread to Magnolia’s dinghy engine. Is this like a flu?

Dinghy engine issues spread to Magnolia. Al and Anthony worked on that one.

Dinghy engine issues spread to Magnolia and it caught the crankiness bug. Al and Anthony worked on that one to keep it running.

All of this background leads to a stop at the Yamaha dealer in Marsh harbor when we went for our visa extension. Anthony and Al spent their time in the showroom while Annette and I were grocery shopping in Maxwells. Why would we buy a new dinghy engine here in the Bahamas????? It’s the old 2-stroke vs 4-stroke story, which I finally grasp in a very basic way.  Two-stroke engines are no longer sold in the U.S., although you can still use them. Four-stroke engines pollute less. But I have to wonder, just how much does a small dinghy engine really pollute the air we breathe? Not so much, I’m thinking. Two-stroke engines are much lighter in weight and that is an important consideration when you are cruising and must lift or hoist it. Lastly, the 2-stroke engines are a very good deal here. The new (never had a NEW engine before) is a 15-horse and will be faster than the old 9.9 horse. Back in Hope Town, the guys pondered, debated, contemplated, and ruminated over and over, and then decided to go for it, making a deal with the dealer for two engines, including delivery to us in Hope Town.

Al and his new dinghy engine

Al and his new dinghy engine. I don’t mind. Al searches eBay and Craigs List for good deals on used and new equipment all the time. The Honda would have been fine for a while longer, but he is pretty excited about his new Yamaha 2-stroke. Me? I now have to relearn everything because starting and running these mechanical things is not intuitive for me.

And then, suddenly, without apparent warning, it was our last day in Hope Town. And it was beautiful day. NO, it was perfect. The weather we had wanted for the past 2 months was back again – sunny with just a light breeze ruffling the water. Perfect for one last ride to Tahiti beach which would help break that new engine in. Even better – Sam and Kayda joined us for the excursion. How appropriate that was! Our first days in the Bahamas, back in Green Turtle, were spent with them, and now our last day would be together. Full circle.

Water reflections

Kayda and I spent our time in the clear water, “beach combing for treasures and admiring the reflections in the clear water.

Al and Sam are discussing boating and world problems.

Al and Sam are discussing boating and world problems.

Instead of packing our lunches, we decided to have lunch at Lubbers Landing, a place we have never been, a first for us. WOW – So glad we didn’t miss this terrific place. Absolutely loved the location, the style, and the food.

Approaching Lubbers Landing, on Lubbers Quarter, by dinghy. Great fire pit right on the beach.

Approaching Lubbers Landing, on Lubbers Quarter, by dinghy.                               Great fire pit in the sand right near the water..

The covered wooden walkways up to the buildings were the first sign that this place was going to be charming, in a very islandy way.

A rustic covered walkway led from the dock up to the restaurant.

A rustic covered walkway led from the dock up to the restaurant.

Amy and her husband Austin, own Lubbers Landing, this small personalized island resort.

Amy and her husband Austin, own Lubbers Landing, this small personalized island resort. She paints the whimsical sayings on the wooden signs, posting them all around the resort.

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Sam (Samantha) and Char (Charlene) are patient and welcoming to us new folks who want to explore and walk around before ordering.

Sam (Samantha) and Char (Charlene) are patient and welcoming to us new folks who want to explore and walk around before ordering.

We sat outside on the deck enjoying every moment of this last day, good friends, excellent food, beautiful setting.

We sat outside on the deck enjoying every moment of this last day, good friends, excellent food, beautiful setting.( Thanks for taking our photo, Amy. It will be one of my favorites.)

Lubbers Landing is known for its tuna burger (on the right) and the fish and chips. Both were delicious. Their famous "saltwater marguerite was the best ever!

Lubbers Landing is known for its tuna burger (on the right) and the fish and chips. Both were delicious. Their famous “saltwater marguerite was the best ever!

We chatted with Amy while we ate, and she eagerly agreed to show us one of their cottages.

If I ever decide to run away froth world, this is where I will be. Wooden walkways meander around the grounds to each cottage. The cottage is small with everything you would ever need. The design is natural "island" (my words) not colorful island. SO peaceful. Amy arranges smooth stones and pebbles in a heart shape on the bed for guests when they first arrive.

If I ever decide to run away from world, this is where I will be (if I also win Lotto.) Wooden walkways meander around the grounds to each cottage. Each cottage is small with everything you would ever need. The design is natural “island” (my words), not colorful island. SO peaceful. Amy arranges smooth stones and pebbles in a heart shape on the bed for guests when they first arrive.

And then it was time to dinghy back to Hope Town, carrying with us wonderful memories of a last day. Thanks for joining us, Sam and Kayda! You made it extra special.

And then it was time to dinghy back to Hope Town, carrying with us wonderful memories of a last day. Thanks for joining us, Sam and Kayda! You made it extra special.

Fridays and a Monday

There is a lot of socializing going on in and around the harbor, on the water, on the land. Socializing comes in many forms such as “scheduled” happy hours as much as 4 hours in advance, spontaneous eruptions, and regular planned events at local establishments. We aren’t much for the bar scene, anywhere, but here in hope Town,  Friday nights would find us at Wine Down Sip Sip conversing and catching  up with dirt dwellers and boat folks. The Friday night ritual at Wine Down Sip Sip, the local wine bar, is the place to be. From my first blog post in January 2014, here is refresher about what the name means: “Wine down = to relax. Sip-sip= to share ‘news’, the Bahamian equivalent of gossip. Wine Down Sip-Sip is the place to do both – relax and enjoy conversations with others.”

Wine Down Sip Sip - a sweet little wine bar

Wine Down Sip Sip – a sweet little wine bar

Friday evenings is also SOTS night which I also described in that first blog. The SOTS membership is still growing, now over 800 members. Congratulations, Deanna and Sara! It’s a worthwhile cause and just plain fun.

We introduced Charlotte and Magnus (Swede Dreams) to Wine Down Sip Sip and Sara and Deanna gleefully inducted them into the SOTS.

We introduced Charlotte and Magnus (Swede Dreams) to Wine Down Sip Sip and Sara and Deanna gleefully inducted them into the SOTS.

From December through February, I would take a couple of photos each Friday at Sip Sip, always planning to do another blog post. Time slipped away, but I certainly can’t let this winter go by without any mention of Wine Down Sip Sip, not at all. We all look forward to our Friday gathering at Sip Sip, come rain or shine.

The room is overflowing with chatter, smiles, food, wine and beer.

The room is overflowing with chatter, smiles, food, wine and beer.

Bonnie, the owner. Serving the very delicious very famous flatbread. Al looks forward to this every Friday.

Bonnie, the owner.
Serving the very delicious very famous flatbread. Al looks forward to this every Friday.

Looks like the guys are all eagerly waiting for their flatbread pizza.

Looks like the guys are all eagerly waiting for their flatbread pizza.

Jim and Al Gloria and me

Jim and Al
Gloria and me

From upper left, clockwise -- Kent, Muffin, Di and Will, Carol and Craig

From upper left, clockwise — Kent, Muffin, Di and Will, Carol and Craig

Al, Kim, John, Magnus, Charlotte, Dan

Al, Kim, John, Magnus, Charlotte, Dan

Sara and Deanna, and Al with a few other Elbow Cay folks

Sara and Deanna, and Al with Sunny, and the Fontaines. All Elbow Cay dirt dwellers – dirt and water can mix very well.

Another weekly Hope Town ritual is Monday Bingo Night at Captain Jack’s. In the interest of experiencing new things, I talked Al into giving this a try one Monday. Peter, from Navigator, was also willing to gamble on his luck.

Captain Jacks, harbor side.

Captain Jacks, harbor side.

Just had to take a picture of Captain Jacks' restroom doors, which are outside. FiFi's and Doodad's

Just had to take a picture of Captain Jacks’ restroom doors, which are outside. FiFi’s and Doodad’s – have you ever heard them called that before?

From our seats, we could see our Kindred Spirit in harbor . We were told that you have to get  there early for a seat. Bingo starts at 6 pm so we were there at 5 pm. During holiday weeks it gets so noisy that we could hear the cheers from winners and the moans from losers from our boat in the harbor.

Let the games begin. $2 per card. Sara and Deanna are in charge of the cards and collecting the money.

Let the games begin. $2 per card. Sara and Deanna are in charge of the cards and collecting the money.

Peter was a good sport to join us. We are ready to play!

Peter was a good sport to join us. We are ready to play!

There behind the window on the inside sits the "caller". He was good at it!

There behind the window on the inside sits the “caller”. He was good at it! But you won’t win if you yell out “BINGO.” You must yell “JACKS!”

bingo cards

Beer bottle caps are perfect bingo chips for this establishment.

Did we win? Nope. Was it fun? Yup. Would I do this every Monday night? No. But I would do it again, even though we lost $20 between the two of us.

The Lighthouse

It can be called “The Lighthouse” because the Elbow Reef Lighthouse is the only lighthouse of its kind remaining in the world; the only hand-wound, kerosene lit lighthouse – no electricity involved.

Visiting this lighthouse was probably the most memorable experience of our time in the Abacos on our first trip. I wrote a detailed blog post then so that I would never forget this unique experience; especially the evening we joined Jeffrey, the lighthouse keeper, for the lighting of the lantern. What a special experience that was – “Candy-Striped Lighthouse.”

The Elbow Reef Lighthouse is so special that it deserves another blog post; I just can’t resist it. It’s part of our daily view here in Hope Town, part of every day and every night. You are aware of its presence even when you aren’t consciously thinking about it.

Elbow Reef Lighthouse, "the candy-striped lighthouse"

Elbow Reef Lighthouse, “the candy-striped lighthouse”

The beginning of a sunset glow around the lighthouse.

The beginning of a sunset glow around the lighthouse.

Living in our trawler we soon realized that when the boat faced southeast, the lighthouse was visible to us as we lay in our cabin, morning and night. Sometimes, depending on the directions of the boat and the night sky, we could even see the piercing beam of light passing over our heads as we lay in bed, looking upward through the hatch.

Always present - our view of the lighthouse from our cabin, out through the salon door.

Always present – our view of the lighthouse from our cabin, out through the salon door.

Lighthouse insigniaIn the past two years, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society (ERLS) has been actively working to preserve this icon of the Bahamas and maintain the “traditional hand-powered technology.”

  • Built in 1864 with a fixed white light that did not flash or turn
  • Major refit in 1936 with the installation of a rotating first order Fresnel lens, described on nautical charts as ”GP FL W (5) EV 15 SEC 120 FT 15M”. Translation = a series of 5 white flashes every 15 seconds, 120 feet above sea level, visible for 15 nautical miles.
  • That Fresnel lens and rotating equipment is still working today.

 

 A very cool graphic diagram of how the lighthouse works.

A very cool graphic diagram of how the lighthouse works. From Annie Potts, Feb 2015, ERLS.

kerosene

Lighting source is a 325,000 candlepower “Hood” petroleum vapour burner. Hand pump is used to pressurize the petroleum (kerosene) in the heavy green iron containers below the lantern room. Fuel travels up a tube to a vapourizer which sprays into a preheated mantle.

winding

Weights on long cables are wound to the top of the tower by a hand winch. A series of bronze gears, rotate the apparatus once every 15 seconds. It works similar to a grandfather clock.

fresnel lens

Fresnel lens has five “bull’s eyes” that concentrate the light into beams which shine out to the horizon, the “soul of the lighthouse.”

keepers homes

The keeper on duty has to wind it every 2 hours, every night. Jeffrey and Elvis are the two lighthouse keepers, living in these round houses at the base of the lighthouse. It certainly helps to live onsite if you are going to crank every 2 hours. Don’t know if they alternate every 2 hours or if they alternate nights.

base of lighthouse

Cracks in the bricks of the tower were repaired in 1953 by the Imperial Lighthouse Service. The stepped concentric rings of concrete were poured around the brick. There are plans to repaint the red and white stripes as part of the restoration project.

The Candy-Striped Lighthouse is in need of serious work again in order to preserve this most-recognized Bahamian landmark. The Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society (ERLS) is undertaking the challenge of this major restoration project.

 

diamond panes

The diamond weatherglass panes protecting the lantern room have weakened and must be replaced in order to protect the antique Fresnel lens and its machinery from hurricane winds and elements. Damaged panes are protected with plexiglass to keep the lantern room watertight, for now, until new curved diamond glass panes can be specially made. This project will cost approximately $120,000 to replace the curved diamond glass panes and metal stripping. A special fundraiser, “Diamonds Are Forever” is underway to raise the money.

It’s a treat to see the lighthouse every day, but part of the experience is to also climb to the top. One day, while our guys were off doing guy things, Marcia and I decided to dinghy over to the lighthouse and climb to the top.

On the left is a photo looking up the stairs; on the right is Marcia on her way down the stairs. 89 feet high, 101 steps to the lantern room.

On the left is a photo looking up the stairs; on the right is Marcia on her way down the stairs.
89 feet high, 101 steps to the lantern room.

Even the storage cupboard is curved to fit against the walls of the tower.

Even the storage cupboard is curved to fit against the walls of the tower.

 

The last sets of steps is a steel ladder, very straight up to the final level.

The last sets of steps is a steel ladder, very straight up to the final level.

The "hand" handle. There must be a story behind this door handle. And this very tiny door to the balcony.

The “hand” handle. There must be a story behind this door handle. And this very tiny door to the balcony.

Marcia and me at the top of the Candy-Striped lighthouse, Bahamas buddies (and Connecticut, too.)

Marcia and me at the top of the Candy-Striped lighthouse, Bahamas buddies (and Connecticut, too.)

The views in all directions are amazing.

The Parrot Cays, west of Elbow Cay

The Parrot Cays, west of Elbow Cay

The outer harbor just before the channel into Hope Town harbour.

The outer harbor just before the channel into Hope Town harbour.

The harbor

Looking eastward at the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean beyond

A closer view of Kindred Spirit, 2nd in line

A closer view of Kindred Spirit, 2nd in line

Hope Town Inn and Marina with its pink buildings, to the south

Hope Town Inn and Marina with its pink buildings, to the south

Regretfully now, I wish I had made that climb more often. It is too easy to let the days slip by, thinking that there will always be more time.

In January of this year, a little gift shop at the base of the light house was opened. The building is simple and suits the lighthouse grounds perfectly. The items are mostly clothing with the Lighthouse Preservation Society logo, as well as backpacks, jewelry made and donated by local cruisers, and solar Luci Lights, a very popular item. All profits are returned to the ERLS for preservation of the tower.

The gift shop, in its red and white colors, of course. The racing chairs onto deck were made on Man O' War by Joe Albury. Red and white cushions will soon dress them.

The gift shop, in its red and white colors, of course. The racing chairs onto deck were made on Man O’ War by Joe Albury. Red and white cushions will soon dress them.

Inside of the shop.

The gift shop is staffed by volunteers so I volunteered. I usually had the Sunday morning shift. I enjoyed the setting, meeting and talking with people as they came to climb the tower. It was a nice bonus that the gift shop has its own very good wifi. 😉

I added to my lighthouse souvenirs –  a shirt and the book, UP Keeps the Light On. There is a wonderful story about this book in the summer 2015 issue of Abaco Life. “UP” is a lizard character featured in an earlier book, UP Cycles to School. Heather Forde-Prosa, a graphic artist, co-owner of the local Hope Town Coffee House, and part-time art teacher, worked with the children of Hope Town Primary School to write the story and create the artwork.

UP Keeps the Light On

“UP Keeps the Light On” — With collaboration from the ERLS, this second book about UP shines a light on the need to preserve and care for their lighthouse through teamwork and shared responsibility. I look forward to reading it to my grandchildren.

In addition to my ERLS shirt and my UPS book, I could not resist one more lighthouse treasure to bring a smile to my face. At our Christmas dinner celebration at the Abaco Inn, I noticed an original watercolor of Elbow Reef Lighthouse in the ladies room (yes, behind the door in the ladies bathroom.) I liked it a lot, but needed to let the idea simmer for awhile. It simmered and percolated for about 6 weeks. Every time we rode our bikes down to the Abaco Inn to view the big surf after those storms, I would stop in and look at the painting again. Tom, the manager, was a delight to talk with about the painting. He, too, has been integral to the preservation of the lighthouse. When he told me that the money from the sale of the painting all goes to the ERLS, my decision was made – we dinghied back to the Abaco Inn again and bought the painting; much easier to bring back in a dinghy than on a bike. When we get home I will have it re-framed in a natural distressed wood, I think, resembling driftwood.

My watercolor painting of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse by Anne W. Ray, 1995 who lived on Lubbers Quarters.

My watercolor painting of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse by Anne W. Ray, 1995 who lived on Lubbers Quarters.

I will still be able to see my favorite lighthouse every day, at home in New England.